It’s December. Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? Most people laugh at me when I tell them I finished a few months ago. Whether you are done or you have a long list of gifts yet to get, here are some tips on how to keep control over your spending level.
What Have You Already Bought?
I find the holidays a bit easier when I plan throughout the year. Yes, I start shopping for the holidays in January. I feel I am running late if my shopping is not finished by September. I just dislike making last minute purchase decisions and seeing big numbers on my credit card statement. I keep an ongoing list of purchased gifts and their cost in the Notes app on my phone. This way I know when I am finished shopping for each person. This list helps a great deal when you want to spend the same amount on each person.
I store all the gifts in one closet. I label each gift with the recipient’s name and event. This allows me to swap out gifts between birthdays and holidays. The recipient never knows and it gives me flexibility. I can easily see what I have on hand because my closet has a lot of shelves.
When shopping online, resist the draw of urgency and scarcity. “Only 1 left in stock!” Take a breather. How do you know they are telling you the truth? There’s probably an equal or better option just a few clicks away. I swear that as I am typing, an email has come in with the subject line “Get them before they’re gone!”
Shipping costs seem to be rising. Include the cost of shipping in your holiday gift budget. If you shop online a lot all year round, consider getting the Amazon Prime membership. Even after paying the annual fee, by mid year I have recouped the membership cost and the shipping is truly free for the remainder for the year. Of course, I recommend that you compare product prices. I have seen one Amazon product price that was higher than another source with free shipping, but without the Amazon Prime speedy delivery.
Aim to Spend Less than Last Year
Dig out your credit card and bank statements from last year’s holiday shopping. Mark them up. Make notes of what you bought for whom. If you cannot remember, then just circle the ones you think were for holiday spending. Now, identify your non-gift holiday spending. That would include holiday cards, giftwrap, decorations, hostess gifts and hosting your own get-togethers. Alternately, you could make a new budget for this year’s spending. When I help my clients create annual budgets, we list every gift recipient for every event. Then my client tells me how much they want to spend on each person. If you do this, remember to include sales tax and shipping.
Right after the holidays, start looking for next year’s gifts. I like to buy birthday and holiday gifts while traveling. I find unique small items that fit into my carryon bag. Yes, my daughters have a fine collection of handmade earrings. Check through your holiday cards and giftwrap supplies now. Pick up more when the discounts begin in the local stores.
There is one exception to this suggestion: small children. Mine seemed to change so fast that I had to wait until closer to the event to buy age appropriate gifts like toys and books.
Even the most careful money managers can wake up with a holiday spending hangover. Paying on these bills for months after the holidays can be unpleasant. By planning ahead and keeping track of your spending, you can enjoy your holidays more and carry that contented feeling into the next year.